The Radiological Society of North America has presented findings from researchers using function MRI which show the gender differences present in online gaming addiction, and the affect it has on brain impulse control.
The study found that the level of brain impulse control is affected by online gaming addiction in men more than women.
Classifying online gaming addiction
According to the Radiological Society of North America, online gaming addiction, which is classified as the condition internet gaming disorder (IGD), is characterised by compulsive playing of online games to the exclusion of other interests. They write that individuals with IGD often suffer significant impairment or distress and may experience negative effects at work, in school or in relationships because of the amount of time they spend playing. They also show symptoms of withdrawal when not playing.
The study’s senior author, Yawen Sun, M.D., diagnostic radiologist at the Department of Radiology of Ren Ji Hospital, who is affiliated with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai, China, said: “Internet use is an integral part of the daily lives of many young adults, and a loss of control over Internet use could lead to various negative effects. Internet gaming disorder has become a major public health concern worldwide among both adolescents and young adults.”
How it affects brain impulse control
Sun added:”Our findings demonstrated that alterations in cerebral activity are observed in men with IGD, but not in women with IGD, and that the lower brain activity in the superior frontal gyrus in men with IGD may be associated with higher impulsivity.”
Sun explained: “Men have shown lower levels of impulse control in comparison with women, and their impulse control also increases more gradually. Given the role of inhibitory control in the initiation of IGD, young men may tend to experiment with pathological Internet use to a greater degree than young women do.”
Importantly, the causes of this difference in lower levels of brain impulse control are unclear. According to Sun, “It remains unclear whether the brain functional and structural changes found in IGD are gaming-induced or precursors for vulnerability…future research should focus on using functional MRI to identify brain susceptibility factors relating to the development of IGD.”